Read The Island Within by Ludwig Lewisohn Free Online
Book Title: The Island Within|
The author of the book: Ludwig Lewisohn
Edition: Syracuse University Press
The size of the: 650 KB
City - Country: No data
Date of issue: October 1st 1997
ISBN 13: 9780815604990
Format files: PDF
Loaded: 2248 times
Reader ratings: 5.8
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THE ISLAND WITHIN. (1928). Ludwig Lewisohn. ****.
This was a Modern Library edition that was printed in 1940, and long out of print in this format. For me, it was a lucky find at a used book sale – the kind of book I look for, where I never heard of either the author or the title. I wasn’t able to learn much about the author other than the fact that he was one of the founders of Brandeis University, and was a strong advocate for the non-assimilation of Jews into the American mainstream. That last becomes obvious in this novel. It is a saga that traces a family’s history from Poland in the early 19th century down to the early part of the 20th century. It is a Jewish family with traditional values, until the later generations that we focus on when the family ultimately moves to America. We find that the strength of faith tends to decline from generation to generation. The normal lives of this family included dealing and living among other Jews. In America, however, the son Arthur, who studies to become a psychologist, finds that he is dealing with more and more gentiles than he is with Jews. Their prejudice, since they are a relatively educated group of people, is deeply hidden under their veneer of urbanity. Arthur makes the ultimate mistake as far as his family is concerned: he falls in love with and marries a Christian woman. You can kind of guess what happens, but the book is more than that. In tracing the Jewish heritage of this family, we learn a lot about the essence of Judaism, both in how it is defined and how it is practiced. You will also learn a lot about the Hebrew language (and Yiddish, too) and their religious rituals. The book contains quite a bit of humor, too, although it is not a slap-your-thighs type. In one story, a Rabbi, Reb Hacohen, was trying to explain the differences between two different subsets of Jews. “Reb Hacohen wagged his head a little. ‘Let me tell you a story. The Chassidim, the pious or holy ones, called their Talmudic adversaries Mithnagedim. And a man came to a Chassidic rabbi and asked: When the messiah comes, will he be a Chassid or a Mithnaged? And the rabbi answered at once: A Mithnaged. For if he were a Chassid, the Mithnagedim would not believe in him. But the Chasidim will accept him whatever his origin.” An opinion of one of the characters is voiced near the end of the book. I suspect that this is also the opinion of the author: “I don’t think that Jews who try not to be Jews do themselves any good in the eyes of intelligent people. There’s something wrong with a man who betrays his own kind.” This is a fascinating and well-written book. Recommended.
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